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District puts bullying policy out for review

Date: 12/7/2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW -- The Longmeadow School Department will hold a public hearing on Dec. 7 at which the community may issue comments and feedback regarding the department's draft Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan.

"The more people involved, the better this plan will be for everyone," Assistant Superintendent Maureen Wilson said. "We want as many constituents as possible there because it's so prevalent today, we want to make sure everyone knows what the steps are to respond to this issue."

Copies of the draft plan, in addition to proposed updates to the district's Bullying Prevention and Facebook and Social Networking Web sites policies are available for review on the district's Web site,

The creation of the plan is in response to a state law that requires that all school districts have a concrete procedure for preventing bullying and dealing with issues should they arise. Public input is a required part of the process by the state. All plans must be submitted for final approval by the Commonwealth by Dec. 31.

To assist communities with the formation of their plans, the state created a model plan. Some school districts have adopted the model word for word, but Longmeadow opted to make the plan more specific to the town.

"We took the template from the state and adapted it to the specific needs in our own district," Wilson said.

While bullying has been a hot-button issue recently, the creation of a prevention plan is not the first step the town has taken toward curbing bullying.

"We have always had bullying policies," Wilson said. "It's always been a part of what we do."

Some department employees recently attended a bullying training session hosted by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) at Westfield State University on Nov. 10 and all employees attended a mandatory training by MARC Director Dr. Elizabeth Englander on Nov. 12.

Wilson added that a session with Englander to discuss bullying with parents will take place sometime in the spring.

The proposed Facebook and Social Networking Web sites policy changes are designed specifically for the prevention of cyber bullying, something that Wilson admits is difficult to enforce.

"With cyber bullying, it's much harder to police," Wilson said. "When it rolls over into the school and a student comes into school upset about something that happened is when we need to be ready to act."

When dealing with Internet bullying, the department also has to take into consideration first amendment rights.

"It's a fine line we have to walk," Wilson said. "But we have to keep the best interests of the students in mind at all times."

Those who are not able to attend the meeting on Dec. 7, but would still like to submit feedback on the policy changes or the new intervention plan may do so by contacting Wilson's office by phone at 565-4200, ext. 21, or

"I've already received feedback from some parents with ideas on things that should be amended or may need to be added and we're taking all of those under consideration," Wilson said.

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